Straw: No arrest law change until after election

The Justice Secretary Jack Straw has ruled out a change to the law of universal jurisdiction, which allows arrest warrants to be issued against Israeli politicians, until after the general election.


By Jessica Elgot, March 5, 2010
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Jack Straw: No arrest law change until after the election

Jack Straw: No arrest law change until after the election

The Justice Secretary Jack Straw has postponed immediate legislation to stop Israeli ministers being threatened with “politically motivated” arrest warrants when they visit Britain, until after the general election.

The justice secretary’s remarks contravene the promise made by Prime Minister Gordon Brown yesterday.

Mr Brown proposed that the Crown Prosecution Service should take the responsibility for prosecuting for war crimes, after reading a leader comment in the JC showing him the strength of feeling over the issue within the Jewish community.

Making war crimes arrests the domain of the CPS would strengthen universal jurisdiction, Mr Brown said, because arrest warrants would then only be issued for those against whom there was a credible case.

But as the change in the law of universal jurisdiction would then stop private individuals seeking arrest warrants, Mr Straw has ruled out changing the law until the government can seek consultation and that will not be until after the election.

A short consultation will take place with the Commons Justice committee, with a closing date of 6 April. This means that there will be no time for primary legislation to be enacted before the election.

The Conservative Party has said it will vote with the government on the law change but the government fears a rebellion on its own benches.

An early day motion opposing a change to the law has now been signed by 123 MPs.

The current law, which allows visiting foreign officials to be arrested for war crimes if a magistrate grants an arrest warrant, caused the former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to cancel a trip to London late last year after an arrest warrant was issued.

    Last updated: 9:49am, March 26 2010